Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Test of Character on an Article V Convention

The conservative movement is being split over the idea of whether we should or should not back an Article V Convention for the purpose of amending the constitution.   I am at great disadvantage on this question because I cannot tell my friends what they wish to hear.   On the other hand, I am at a great advantage because I am telling them the truth, and for people of virtue the truth has a power all of its own.  Here then is my testimony and findings of fact in this matter for your consideration:

Most of the debate over whether we should pursue Mark Levin's plan for a Convention centers on the question of whether such a convention can be "hijacked" for purposes beyond the scope intended by those grassroots people who first got the ball rolling on it.   Of course it can.   The idea that such an attractive target, with so much power at stake in one central location, will remain confined strictly to the wishes of those back home who originated the idea, is completely unreasonable.   The chances of a hi-jack may be low, or they may be high, but they will not be zero.   I think they will be high.   As a rule, the more power you have at stake in a distant central location, the greater the chances that this power will be used in a way not anticipated by or agreed to by those far away from that location.   This is the whole problem of Washington in a nutshell.

Phyllis Schlafly and others point out that the convention which produced our present constitution was itself a "runaway convention." It was originally authorized by Congress only and solely to suggest amendments to the then-existing constitution, called the "Articles of Confederation".  The Continental Congress did not give the delegates any authority to produce an entirely new compact.  On the pro-convention side, men like Michael Farris attempt to dismiss Schafly's concerns.   Farris' highly deceptive arguments are dealt with here.   

If that link is not enough to convince you, consider that in the 1787 convention two-thirds of New York's delegation left when they realized that the convention had "gone rogue" and was exceeding their authority in writing a new constitution rather than suggesting amendments for the then-existing one.   Here is the report of those two delegates where they explain just that.  If any of you are wondering which side is telling you the truth about this issue, those two short links, the one in this paragraph and the one which ends the paragraph above, should tell you all you need to know.  It is then up to you if you want to side with those who are telling you the truth, or those who are not.

Levin sells readers on the idea that James Madison, considered the "father of the Constitution", included Article V as some sort of "fail safe" if people lost control of their government.   The truth is that Madison was a federalist.  One, to his credit, who accepted that the Constitution we wound up with gave the central government less power than he would have liked, but a federalist never-the-less.   His passages in the Federalist Papers that Levin cites are explanations of what an Article V convention would be like, not an endorsement of an article V convention.  If you want to know how Madison really felt about a "General Convention" which was similar to though not necessarily the same as an an Article V convention, then look to his letter to one G. L. Turberville in Nov. of 1788:

"3. If a General Convention were to take place for the avowed and sole purpose of revising the Constitution, it would naturally consider itself as having a greater latitude than the Congress appointed to administer and support as well as to amend the system; it would consequently give greater agitation to the public mind; an election into it would be courted by the most violent partizans on both sides; it wd probably consist of the most heterogeneous characters; would be the very focus of that flame which has already too much heated men of all parties; would no doubt contain individuals of insidious views, who under the mask of seeking alterations popular in some parts but inadmissible in other parts of the Union might have a dangerous opportunity of sapping the very foundations of the fabric. Under all these circumstances it seems scarcely to be presumable that the deliberations of the body could be conducted in harmony, or terminate in the general good. Having witnessed the difficulties and dangers experienced by the first Convention, which assembled under every propitious circumstance, I should tremble for the result of a Second, meeting in the present temper of America and under all the disadvantages I have mentioned."

So while Levin is going around selling this thing as Madison's provision for the people to take back a wayward federal government, Madison himself thought a similar convention would be a disaster.  As a federalist, he much preferred that any changes go through Congress.   The option to go through the states to call a convention was an attempt to peel off supporters of the George Mason position that there should be a way to amend the constitution which completely by-passed Congress.   Mason lost that one, and many others.

Madison and the other federalists stole a march on the anti-federalists when drafting Article V. It is Congress which gets to issue the call to convention which produces whatever amendments the states are even allowed to consider. It is they who decide whether those amendments are to ratified by "conventions" or by the state legislatures. 

Who decides who gets to be a delegate at the amendments convention? The article is silent on that, but it does say Congress is giving the call, and it will take only one federal employee (a judge) to determine that they get to decide. Do you think I will get to be a delegate under that scenario? Do you think you will be? We will see conventions run by "community organizers" before we see that.  

Some Indiana Senator thinks he can use state law to insure that delegates to an Article V convention stay within the state-mandated call to convention.   That is an absurd vanity.   Congress, and Congress alone, is authorized by the Constitution to give the call to convention, and there is every reason to believe that any federal judges who would decide the matter would rule that what the Constitution itself says on the matter would trump Indiana law.   We discovered a decade or so ago that Arkansas cannot limit the terms of Congressmen because judges ruled that the federal constitution does not explicitly permit them to do so.  In the same way it is extremely probable that federal judges will rule that states cannot limit the purview of Article V convention delegates.  Indeed the case is even stronger for that because the Constitution is not just silent as to who has the power to define the terms of the convention, but explicitly says that Congress is to issue the call.

If any amendment, any words on paper, really could turn dishonest men into honest ones then the plan will still fail because the dishonest men get to decide on what amendments may be considered for ratification, and to some unknown extent even who votes to ratify those words into the constitution.   Even if the conventions in the states are not picked by Congress, what those conventions get to vote on is decided by a convention which will be. 

OK, so the risk of having an Article V Convention is not zero, the risk may even be high, but if the potential reward is also high couldn't that justify the high risk?   Perhaps.  But the potential reward is not high.  No matter how well he sells it, even if Levin got every amendment he is pushing ratified into the Constitution it would not fundamentally solve any of our government's problems.   I have broken down the policy value of four of his amendments, but the one on taxation is most instructive because the math is so clear.   Read this analysis of the policy impact of his suggested amendment on taxation and then decide if you think he is selling real answers or false hope.  It is the same on the others.  No monetary proposal which leaves the Federal Reserve system unscathed will fundamentally solve any of our problems in this vital area of government.

There then, are enough of the facts of the matter so that an honest person might distinguish between who is offering you hard truth and who is selling false hope.   I know that people are anxious right now, and this is the political equivalent of a "get rich quick" scheme.   We don't have to do the hard work of turning over our state legislature from the sellouts who gave us Obamacare and called it another name.   We don't have to purge our federal delegation who consistently vote against our interests.  We don't have to purge our political party, or God forbid, sever our ties and quit lending our good name to one of the two political gangs which have bankrupted our nation.   No, we can skip all of that hard work.  We don't have to cut our expenses, we don't have to work harder and get more income.  We need only give our account information to this nice salesperson who offers us this way to escape from our dilemma without having to make all of those hard choices.   

This is an enticing idea, but its not the truth.   We are going to have to make some hard choices.  We did not get in this mess in one year or ten and we are not going to get out of it in one year or ten either.   We have a lot of hard work ahead of us, but if we will honor and work for what is true we can, by the grace of God, do it.    But we have to love the truth enough to embrace it even when it involves some pain.  We have to hate lies enough to reject them even when they sound so sweet and relatively easy.  This, like much of life, is not just a choice, its a test of character.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Global Corporation Leans on State to Adopt Common Core

"Common Core" is the latest label placed on the idea of national school curriculums.  Deciding what our children are to be taught is too large a prize for the corpro-fascist state to leave in the hands of parents, communities, or even whole states.   And make no mistake, the power to decide what is taught at public schools across the whole nation will not escape politicization.  Not when the power to set what the educational outcomes should be is taken that far out of the hands of the families and communities where the children actually sit and learn.  Education of your children just becomes one more lever every group with an agenda can fight over.

Common Core must necessarily take power further away from the parents of the individual child being educated and deposit that power in a central location.   After all, if there is only one set of standards for everyone, then there is only one set of deciders for what those standards should be.   If community "A" has one vision for their children's learning, and other communities have different ideas, then who decides?

The localist solution is that each community decides for it self.  Each will learn what works for them and what they want to borrow from the others.   Common Core's answer is that we all get absorbed into one collectivist blob, and the self-important Masters of the Universe pick out what they want from that blob and impose it on everyone.

The localist solution represents true diversity.   It represents the triumph of the free market of ideas as applied to education.    Common Core represents the phoney synthetic non-sensical "diversity" of the other side.   It is a vision of "uniform diversity", a contradiction where the state determines from a central location what respect for diversity means.   It will therefore control whose views are promoted in the name of "tolerance" and "diversity."  It will likewise control whose views are dismissed as "bigotry" and "intolerance" in the name of diversity.  None of this will be the decision of any individual parents anymore, or any even any local school districts.  Nor any state.  The collective will now give one answer, "the" answer, to which others are expected to agree.

Common Core is the antithesis of freedom, and of free market principles in education.   It is the end of innovation.    What the Five Year Plans were to economic innovation and productivity, common core will be to educational innovation and productivity.   Oh they will go to great lengths to push changes in technology and technique regarding how ideas are disseminated, but progress and innovation in what is really important, the ideas themselves, will be a dead letter.

The organic, true "Common Core" consisted of a classical body of knowledge passed from one generation to the next over a thousand years of Western Civilization.  In addition to true innovation, we will also lose this true and natural common core once called "classical education".   A torch of knowledge passed on by our forebears for a thousand years will be dropped and extinguished in our generation.   The new ruling elites just have so many ideas about what they want to do with those school hours you see.   And much of what made Western Civilization what it was conflicts with post-modern thinking, and therefore will be jettisoned.

Because the Constitution does not give the Federal Government any authority whatsoever on the issue of education, it has become necessary for Fedgov to use its printing press to bribe the states into surrendering their authority.   Of course, there should be no printing press either, but the power to create money from thin air is among the first extra-legal powers those who desire to be tyrants give to themselves.  It is the master key which gives them the power to, over time, acquire to themselves all other powers as well.  This is why, of all possible political philosophies, only Localism can resist the centralization of government power into one place.  Even anarchist theorems have no defense against the fiat printing press.   But I digress, with regards to Common Core, despite bribing states with their own citizen's money to cede control over education standards to Washington, some states are resistant.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett recently made the decision to delay the implementation of Common Core.  Not stop it mind you, but apparently he wanted a few things sorted out before proceeding.   Exxon-Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson wrote a letter to Corbett which many have interpreted as a veiled threat to with-hold projects and charitable contributions to the state unless the state casts aside its doubts and cedes control of education to the people behind the curtain who are running Common Core.  Tillerson does not say it so bluntly of course, and he repeats the lie that Common Core was put together by parents and educators.

Obviously if it really was the work of a broad segment of Pennsylvania parents and teachers then the state would not have to be bribed and pressured into implementing it.   One does not have to go through Washington and back to implement one's own ideas.   These are the ideas of the ruling class wrapped up in the lie that they are our own ideas in order to fool us into "taking ownership" of their ideas for us.   Common Core will do for education what Obamacare is presently doing to health insurance.

I am amazed at how many people take transparently false claims at face value just because them come from someone in a position of authority, even though most also realize that our present authorities are corrupt.   Tillson also claims that Common Core is a state program because states can decide how they will implement the standards and goals given to them by others.     Just because your boss gives you some leeway in how to accomplish the goals he gives you does not mean that you are your own boss.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee tried that same con years ago, referring to such an arrangement as "local control of schools" while describing (and carrying out) policies which did the exact opposite.     They take a buzz phrase that sounds good to people and slap it on a program which does the exact opposite, seemingly without a pang of conscience.   I have concluded that if we continue to be too polite to call them out for lying to us, they are going to keep lying as long as it works.   Since I have had enough of being lied to, when someone lies to me, I am going to call it what it is.  If you are also tired of being lied to, I suggest you join me in that practice.

Big corporations are among those interest groups who would like a say in what your child's education looks like.   For example, they would love to shift their job training costs off unto the backs of taxpayers.  This idea used to be called "Workforce Education", and it is still around.   The idea is that local boards filled with whichever employers have the most political pull get to sit around a table and say "We need X number of nurses and Y number of machine operators".   Public dollars would then be used to train workers for those fields from about the age of 16 and up.   Of course whoever gets on this board is going to ask for a number far in excess of their actual needs so that they can cherry pick the best.   Nor can any such government panel keep up with the fast-changing needs of our modern technological society.

This sort of thing will naturally cut into the sort of general and broad-based education where a core body of knowledge was passed from one generation to the next.   But of course worker drones don't need the connected sense of ideas necessary for self-government, because that sort of thing is not in the new plan.

My friends, the enemies of liberty have detailed and integrated plans to centralize power and control of your life into their hands.   If you desire to resist them, you must also have an integrated philosophy of government, one with a systematized approach to blocking the centralization of power. If you try to fight back piecemeal, unaware of how they lay the foundation for future victories, the battle will be lost by the time you see the need to fight it.  An integrated philosophy allows one to see the truth threat in things which are passed off as innocent or even helpful.   Localism is that philosophy of government.  The rules for corporations, money, political parties, and federalism all had to be altered before the centralizers could put us in this terrible position in education.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

100th Anniversary of "The Terrible Year" of the American Republic

I consider 1913 to be the "terrible year" for the American Republic.  Three fateful decisions made in that year set us on an inevitable course to a post-Republic America.  If those decisions are not reversed soon, the Republic will be irretrievably lost.   

That year saw the introduction of the income tax in a form that would stick.  Somehow, America survived without a federal income tax for 100 years.   Income taxes on individuals are not needed to fund the legitimate functions of the federal government and I believe that they are not even intended to do so.  Instead, the purpose of an income tax is to give the central government power over each individual citizen, so that its minions can reward who they wish and punish who they wish.   Citizens of any means who want to speak out against the government must first consider what they have to lose.

Congressmen will have favors to sell with tax breaks.  The executive branch can instill fear and silence people who get too far out of line.    It is a tool of control rather than a necessary tool for funding the government.  It is a way for them to put their finger on you.

Some people think the solution is the so-called "Fair Tax."  It isn't.   It would just turn the IRS from an agency which audited your income to one which audited your spending. There are other problems with it as well.  

The solution is not to change the way in which the central government can demand taxes of individual citizens, but to eliminate that power all together.   The states should be a shield between the individual and the central government, since if a state has oppressive tax collectors, it will soon find itself without productive citizens.   It is much harder to escape the clutches of an abusive tax system controlled by a central government.

Nineteen-Thirteen was also the year we got the Federal Reserve System that has siphoned off 96% of the value of the dollar since 1913.  That siphoned-off value went to the government as a hidden tax and into the pockets of the big banks which comprise the fed. 

Consider that only four pennies in 1913 could purchase what requires a dollar to buy today.     Indeed, a silver dime from 1963 is worth two dollars today.  That's just how fast our currency has been drained of value.  That value went somewhere.   That somewhere was the government, which grew in size and scope even as the currency it issued contracted in worth.  Also benefiting were the large banks which control the issue of currency.   Over the last one hundred years, those are the parties that gained big from the dollar's fall.

The book "Localism, A Philosophy of Government" points out that controlling the issue of currency is akin to having a "Magic Money Machine" which can grant one access to the entire wealth of a nation by sucking value out of existing currency and putting it into the new currency which the machine operators create.   Over time, anyone with access to such a machine would be able to consolidate all political and economic power into their own hands, and this is just what the big banks who make up the federal reserve have been doing.  Ergo, if this machine is not destroyed, our Republic will be.

1913 also brought us the 17th amendment, which states that United States Senators are to be chosen by direct election of the people.  Prior to that time, they had been selected by the largest house of the legislatures of the states.  In Arkansas, that would mean that the 100 state representatives would choose our U.S. Senators should the 17th amendment be repealed.

Critics of the amendment prophetically warned that it would tip the balance of power between the state governments and the federal government far more toward the federal government.  All three measures re-enforced federal power.   The federal government has grown so explosively since 1913 that the system of governance the Founders originally established is scarcely recognizable.  It could not have done so without the income tax, the federal reserve, and the 17th amendment.

All three measures discussed here set the stage for this explosive growth.   The federal income tax made it the federal government's business as to how much money every citizen made.   It gave them the power to use the tax code to redistribute wealth and grant special favors to the well-connected.    The Federal Reserve System, once the dollar was finally severed from the gold standard, gave them the power to enact a hidden tax called inflation.   It also allowed governments to borrow like mad at the expense of savers while concealing (for a time) the true cost.   It allowed well-connected financial interests to manipulate booms and busts in the economy and, for the select few who knew which was coming ahead of time, profit both ways.

Of course, the 17th amendment did have the effect that it's critics predicted.   The states dwindled in influence and the federal government gathered more and more power to itself.   Without the Senators being beholden to the state legislatures, there was no one to watch out for the interests of the states in the federal power structure.     While the federal government has sometimes used this new power over the states for good, in the long run centralized power is never good for the cause of liberty.   

Washington now increasingly forces "one size fits all" solutions on areas of life that were once left up to each state individually.   If some state discovered a better way, others could copy it.   If some citizens did not like the way a state did something, they could easily move to one which did things more to their liking.   But where do you go when all the decisions are made in one city?

I favor the repeal of the federal individual income tax, and the disbanding of the Federal Reserve System.  Returning those two policies to the original American condition will help reign in Washington in more ways than I can describe here.   Yet I can't support repealing the 17th amendment at this time. 

Let me explain the apparent inconsistency.   State legislatures can no longer be counted on to defend the rights of the states (and therefore the people in those states) against unjust federal power.   That is because both major political parties are now thoroughly creatures of the D.C. beltway.   If ambitious young state representatives want to move up in our current system they almost have to please the party hierarchy.   That hierarchy runs straight back to D.C.   The power of political parties has been centralized in D.C. just like government power has been.   The federal government now has lots of high paying easy-money jobs to offer through party patronage to state legislators who sell out and vote against the interests of the states and for the interests of the federal government.   At this point, the people themselves are more to be trusted than the legislature.

Consider our own state (Arkansas) representatives.   Most of the Democrats are so sold out that I don't even feel the need to document it.  But even the Republicans feel establishment pressure.  For example, many of the state's GOP representatives did not try to pick a senator, but they did try to pick the GOP Presidential nominee.   Sadly, they tried to pawn Texas Governor Rick Perry off on unsuspecting Republican voters in the state.   Oh, some of them may have been fooled themselves, but you just don't do something like that unless you know enough to avoid being made a fool of.   Why did they do it?  It surely was not a constituent service.   The people of this state were not begging them to pick a Presidential candidate for them.  I suspect they were asked to by someone in the GOP hierarchy.

End the fed.   End the individual income tax.  But don't repeal the 17th until, somehow, some way, political power in the form of the two party system is transformed into something more grass-roots and decentralized.  I cast my lot with something like Neighbors of Arkansas and hope something like it is formed in every state.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Establishment's War on the Middle Class, By the Numbers

Demagogues who get elected to office promising to "tax the rich" to provide government goodies invariably wind up turning their guns on the middle class in order to fund their vote-buying schemes.  The rich after all, have options.  They can hire lobbyists to create loopholes, fund credible opponents, and if it comes right to it, simply leave.  They have the economic means to change jurisdictions which most middle class folks lack.

Like most predators, big-government politicians look for those who are easiest to victimize. The middle class have assets to pillage, but not so much that they can easily escape predation, so they are high on the list.    And let's not forget another favorite target- the next generation, who have no vote with which to defend themselves. They have no way to vote against being made into debt slaves by today's politicians who fund their big ideas by promising the earnings of tomorrow's children.

By some manner of cognitive dissonance, a large segment of our population considers them heroes for doing this.  I consider them moral degenerates, swindlers of children.  Those voters who support such villainy in the hopes of gaining some share of the loot are no better.  Let's hope they repent, because not even the best health care in the world (which they won't get anyway) can prolong life on earth indefinitely.   One day, we will all have to stand before the Strongest Child Advocate in the Universe.

If you just look at the math though, demagogues have to know that they cannot get the money to fund their larceny by "taxing the rich".   There simply are not enough rich to do the job.  That is why, to the extent they don't use debt, they must rob the middle class.   This scam has been going on for at least a generation, and in that generation the middle class has collapsed to a fraction of its former size.   And unless they wake up to the fact that class warfare is occurring, and take effective measures to fight back, the American Middle Class will soon be all but extinct.

I am drawing heavily from this Bruce Krasting article for my numbers.   His point was that there are not enough rich, that America is not a rich enough country, to pay for all of this socialism. With that said, let's look at the math...

1) The "top 1%" of earners ($200K+ or $250K + for a couple) have about 14% of the income. Most of those are on the lower end of the scale, only 166 Americans make more than $50 million a year.   If we doubled the top 1%'s tax rates to 75% we would garner $150 billion extra- if they hung around and continued to work in order to have 3/4ths of their earnings confiscated for the sake of strangers.  Would you?   Nevertheless, our current debt is near $1 trillion dollars, so even if we did this it would only cover about a sixth of our debt, and that's before Obamacare really gets rolling.    The bottom line is "taxing the rich" to pay for the government we have now, much any less expansions, is a slogan, not an option.

2) About 46% of income earners earn 138% of the federal poverty level or less, and thus will be eligible for Medicaid under the new health care guidelines.   In dollar figures that represents about $16,000, for a couple $22,000, and around $33,000 for a family of four.   And of course the non-income earners are already eligible.  So the plan is to have half the country eligible for Medicaid.

3) In addition, families who make up to 400% of the Federal Poverty Level will be eligible for "subsidies" on the exchanges.   That goes up to $90,000 a year, but the subsidies taper off to next to nothing as you approach that figure.  Realistically, everyone under $50,000 a year is slated to get significant subsidies for health insurance.     73% of earners make under $50,000.

So 73% will be "takers" under the new system.   So let me ask you, who is going to be paying for all this government?  On whose backs will the burden be laid?   Not the rich, for they don't have to take it and there are too few of them at any rate.  No friends, it will be the 26% of the households in this nation who make more than $50,000 a year but less than $250,000, who will be expected to pay for all of this.  It might not all be in direct taxes either. By forcing healthy people who take care of themselves to pay higher premiums to cover someone else who made poor choices and whose premium is subsidized at any rate the government has in effect increased the taxes of the first person.   They just did it by mandate.

4) Because of the hidden tax of inflation, $50,000 is not very much money.  It is about the minimum a household needs to stay in the middle class in much of the country.   For example, this Inflation Calculator shows that an income of $50,000 in 2012 had the same buying power as an income of $16,396 in 1980. In 1980 a number of dollars that would put a man in the middle class would today make him eligible for Medicaid!    Yet so pernicious has been the theft by inflation via the Federal Reserve that a family making $50,000 today only has the buying power of $16,396 dollars based on their value the year I graduated high school.   The middle class is getting eaten alive from both ends as the high tax rates reach lower and lower into the earnings levels, while inflation means that the purchasing power of their dollars vanishes.


Our shrinking middle and upper middle class will be virtual hostages.  26% of the population is supposed to pay for all of this.   One out of four people are expected to pull the wagon that everyone else is sitting in.   That does not count the large amount of debt which will be pushed into the future and made into our kid's problem.   All because we refuse to accept fiscal reality.  We can't afford the wagon.  We can't afford the government that we have.   It would be wonderful if government could somehow pay for all the health care that we think we should have, but mathematical reality proves beyond any reasonable doubt that it can't.  It is not a realistic option, yet it is what we are presently trying to do because our ruling class does not want to face the reality that the party is over and we are out of money. Desperate voters sure don't want to face this reality either.   But it is still reality.

Facing reality is something that grown-ups are supposed to do, verses the escapism of perpetual adolescents and the mentally ill..  If we can't afford what we have now, we surely cannot afford the major expansion that is Obamacare.  We can't pay for all these things, we can't achieve utopia by means of government, but we can bankrupt ourselves trying.  This program will kill what is left of the middle class and keep those who have recently fallen out of it from ever re-entering.

Both parties want to expand government.   The Republican party has sometimes posed as the "alternative" which wants to shrink, or at least stop the expansion of, government.  It has absorbed the votes, money, and energy of those who want to stop the expansion of government on the basis of its posturing.   However, whenever it's supporters expect the Republican party to actually do something to stop the expansion of government, the people who run it become belligerent, hateful, and angry with the people who supported it on that basis.

Obviously it is past time that people who believe that government has gotten too big quit putting 100% of their political eggs in the Republican basket.   Local, organic, de-centralized, and hard to capture or corrupt alternatives should be pursued by any citizens who wants to actually defend their interests rather than ineffectually rail at the red team or put groundless hope in a party system which turns hostile when reminded of its recent promises.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Liberty Amendments vs. Localist Solutions on Limiting Federal Bureaucracy

I have been reading "The Liberty Amendments" by Mark Levin.   I can't help it.  It is like trying to take one's eyes off of a train wreck.   He is quite good at outlining the problems, many are.   It's his so-called "solutions" which reek.   Though the way he sells it makes them sound superficially plausible, when scrutinized it becomes clear that they would be a massive amount of wasted effort.  Even if they could be implemented risk-free, and they can't, they would not solve the problems which Levin claims they would solve.

What I would like to do here is compare his "solutions" for curbing federal bureaucracy with the more subtle, elegant, and effective solutions found in Localism, A Philosophy of Government.   I have done the same comparison with the approach each work has to Judicial Tyranny, Federal Government Spending, and Federal Taxation.   These articles demonstrate that in many ways we would actually be worse off than we are now if we adopted what Levin claims are solutions.

As it concerns the federal bureaucracy, Levin does a fine job of outlining the problem- that Congress has given up much of its law-making responsibility to executive branch bureaucrats.  They write laws with very vague definitions and then allow the regulators to fill in the blanks.  As he does with all of the problems he writes about in The Liberty Amendments,on this issue Levin rushes for a superficial, hamfisted non-solution without ever addressing the root causes of the problem.  Why has Congress done this?   What is the root cause of this problem?  Instead of trying to treat the symptoms as Levin does, Localism treats the root causes.

Why does Congress abdicate its authority to make law to Executive Branch bureaucracies? What is maddening is that Levin correctly answers this question- then suggests non-solutions which don't address the "why" which he acknowledges.  Levin writes:
"It would seem counterintuitive for Congress to surrender its own power to executive branch entities of its own making, and for a President to surrender his own decision-making authority to an administrative state.  But if the purpose is to centralize and concentrate power in the federal government, in defiance of our founding principles and the Constitution,- as the Statists have preached and promoted actively for over a century- then the frequent and broad delegation of lawmaking power to a permanent, ever-present federal bureaucracy, insulated from public influence, makes perfect sense."

Yes, that's it exactly.  Both parties are bought and paid for by global corporate interests.   Congressmen and Senators of both parties don't much care about turf battles with the executive branch, because both are there to consolidate various legislative powers into the executive branch.  They are there to consolidate power on behalf of their respective hierarchy, so that government can "get things done" on behalf of the interests which fund their political club.     The President is also the titular leader of one of the two parties anyway, so half the legislature always wants to get more power to the captain of "their team."

Levin complains that "Congress seems more than willing to abandon its core function to the executive branch and accept the status quo....."   Yes it does, and nothing Levin suggests as a solution will change that.  He admits the purpose of Congress giving away its rule-making authority is to centralize power, but does not say anything about why congress works like that.  Why have they abandoned their instituted function and chosen near-irrelevancy?   It's a result of the party system.   Throwing up a couple of amendments to try and make congress take its job back won't help, because the root problem is that Congress does not wish to do the job the Founders assigned it.  They want to empower the executives, and fund-raisers, of their respective parties.

We need to reform our candidate election system so that it is easier to get good people in office and easier for them to stand against these forces and institutions which facilitate, neigh compel even, centralization.  The unified party system is the flywheel of this monstrous system.  Corporate money spins it.

Levin does not even address the harm that the unified party system has done to our former representative Constitutional Republic.   When I say an "unified party system" I mean that the same political machine through which state candidates are run is also the machine through which federal candidates are run.  And that same machine backs candidates for both legislative offices and executive offices.  

This undermines the intent of the Founding Fathers when they set up our government of checks and balances.   The states were supposed to check and balance the federal government, and at both levels the Legislative branch was supposed to check the Executive branch.   This is the root cause, the reason why our legislative branch is giving away its authority, becoming more despised and more irrelevant.  The unified party system undermines the defining features of our political system, but Levin does not talk about it.  No one wants to talk about it except the localists.

Localism not only mandates institutional separation of political parties by state, it places reasonable limits on incorporation so that they do not become so large as to swallow up our economy and political system.    It also advocates run-offs (preferably instant run-offs) for all elections so that citizens no longer fear "splitting the vote" and electing their least preferred alternative.  This and other measures will empower regional groups within a state to directly sponsor independent candidates for office.  Political parties will get decentralized and de-emphasised in a localist nation.

Regulatory capture becomes a serious issue when giant corporate entities gain too much influence over the agencies which are supposed to be regulating them.  The bureaucracy then serves the biggest players in the industry, and erects barriers to entry for potential competitors.

Corporations in a localist nation can only be owned by real persons, not other corporations.   This prevents the abuse of incorporation to off-load risk into a subsidiary that can be left holding the bag when a giant liability issue arises.   Many regulatory agencies have grown up around managing the risks which grow around that practice- localism would ban the practice, thus eliminating the need for any bureaucracy to manage it.

Regulatory agencies do not have full sovereign immunity in a localist society.   They are liable for their actions in that those bureaucrats who run the agencies can be removed from their jobs by a judicial ruling should an agency be found culpable for exceeding their authority, becoming captured by players in the industry, or other malfeasance.

Not that they would be common at any rate.  In localism, the interstate commerce power of Congress would be extremely curtailed, and that is the source of authority for most regulations.   States can even agree among themselves to suspend a federal regulation based on the interstate commerce clause as it applies to commerce between them.   And suits at common law are preferred over regulatory solutions at any rate.

Compare these measures, which strike at the very root and heart of the problem, with the heavy-handed attempt to bludgeon the symptoms away in Levin's book.   He wants an amendment which says that every agency has to be renewed by a vote of Congress every three years.   How will that help until you first address the root cause that we have a Congress full of people who want to abdicate their responsibilities?

He also wants the amendment to say that all new regulations that will cost over $100 million dollars to comply with  (according to FEDGOV) would have to be approved by a special congressional panel.    In Arkansas, we had a law which said that all school purchases over $5,000 had to be bid out.   Of course what happened is that superintendents split their orders up so that they would have five, ten, or twenty individual orders all under $5,000.   This system would be gamed the same way.  They will just break one regulation into two parts.

That's if they even need to.  The special panel members would be picked by the House Speaker and the Minority Leader.   The most inside of the insiders would be picking trustworthy minions from safe seats to keep up business as usual.  Can you think of a worse way?   These amendments look like window dressing to me- they have the superficial appearance of trying to fix the problem while actually leaving the worst of our system in place.

In conclusion, the problem of federal bureaucracy taking over the legislative function is real.  Nothing in The Liberty Amendments will fix it though, because it attempts to address symptoms, not root causes.   We must go deeper, systemically and intellectually, to the philosophy of Localism in order to return our Republic to the Founders' vision of a just, limited, and decentralized government.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Answers on Defense Spending: Voluntary, Mandatory, or Considered?

"The Free Rider Problem" is, whether admitted or not, problematic for advocates of most forms of libertarian society, particularly the various forms of voluntarism. The idea that no government on any level should have the power to coerce tax revenues means that any "taxes" paid will be more like donations.
The difficulty with removing the power to collect coercive taxes for anything is that "public use" goods such as national defense will be greatly under-consumed in a voluntary system. This will lead to not only a miss-allocation of resources, but in some cases a loss of the very freedom libertarians and others hold so dear.
National Defense is a prime example of a public good. You benefit from national defense (note: this argument applies to true national defense, not militarism masquerading as such) whether you contribute to the national defense or not. It would be impossible to exclude you from the benefits of national defense. That's the profile of a "public use" good. You can obtain full benefits even if you did not contribute toward the purchase.
Suppose the volunteer tax collector comes around and asks you how much you want to spend on defense this year. To reflect our real defense budget, excluding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the share for the average family of four would be about $9,000 per year (you might not have known the burden was so high). The fellow tells you that to keep defense spending where it is, he needs you to write a check for $9,000, or actually $18,000 since your humble author decided things were a little tight in my household this year so I told them I didn't want to pay anything.
Who among you will honestly tell me that you will keep writing that check, year after year, knowing that it will just be one drop in a very big bucket that won't even notice that "drop" which is such a sacrifice for you?
I have heard it said that giant corporations like Coca-Cola, with so much to lose, would step up and pay the bills. Please, corporations don't care which set of government parasites is looting them, only how much they loot. "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss" would be their motto, unless the enemy nation made a deal with them, as China has done with many companies in other contexts.
Jefferson was right, merchants have no country. Corporations may even look on the unity of the two nations as an opportunity to expand their markets. Besides, if corporations were paying the bills, they'd be calling the literal "shots" even more than they do now- sending our troops overseas to protect their foreign property as a condition of their continued support. Don't count on them to defend your freedom, because that is not what they are there for. They have their own interests.
In a voluntary society, if we just go around asking everyone how much they want to pay for national defense, the answer would be "X", even when a citizen really thought the prudent level would be 2X, or 10X or even infinityX. Defense will be woefully under-consumed in a voluntary society, even dangerously so. It has been said, short of the Kingdom of God those who beat their swords into plowshares will plow for those who don't.
A society which funds its national defense this way will lose its freedom to a society which does not. The American revolution was not supported by the entire population, but the entire population was taxed to pay for it. Had we not done so, we would have lost and still be subjects of England. Could either side have won the first world war with such a tactic? How about the Second World War? That's the problem with voluntarism and public goods such as police protection and national defense. Resources are not rationally allocated because we all know we can be a free rider when things are tight, and things tend to always be tight!
But of course, it is not fair to compare a voluntary society with perfection. Comparing it to what we have now would be a much fairer comparison, and in that comparison it looks a lot better. Because what we have now is a massive over-consumption of goods- the opposite problem of the free-rider problem in public use goods.
That too is a result of the way defense is funded. The people paying for it are only distantly connected to those who decide how much to pay. And between them is a military-industrial complex which lobbies the people who pay. It lobbies them intensely. The Complex is focused on only one issue- how much money the defense industry is getting. For the general voter, a Congressman who spends too much on defense can make up for it in other areas. But for the Military-Industrial Complex, there are no other areas. Breaking it down to incentives for politicians, they have more incentive to overspend defense dollars than under spend them.
If that were the only economic incentive, it could be overcome. After all, they would just be another special interest group in Washington with few boots on the ground back home. Two things have enabled this special interest to successfully get America to overspend on defense, or really just one thing that has two components. Defense is over-consumed in our society today because the cost for it is shifted to others.
One way this is done is through the use of fiat currency debt to fund the purchases. This allows the politicians to essentially buy the favor of the special interest while shifting the costs unto the backs of the unborn. Taxing the next generation to buy support is a favorite tactic of politicians lacking in moral character. Since we don't have to write the check for it today, its all on easy, easy credit terms, we choose to tackle more immediate problems, and the debt bomb just keeps ticking.
The other way costs are shifted is that specific defense spending, which benefits specific localities where such systems are built, is paid for from general revenues. In other words, the politicians are taxing all the other states to pay for spending in their state. This is the old "if you are paying, I'll have the filet mignon" problem. When costs are shared evenly no matter how the benefits are divided, people tend to consume more than they would if they had to pay all of the costs themselves.
And of course, when you have all this excess military hanging around, there are a lot of interests that can find work for it- precipitating more "defense" spending on wars, bases, occupations, nation building, and "kinetic actions" which have more to do with protecting the foreign property of some global corporation than the actual country.
So while we could look down our long noses at voluntarism and castigate it for risking the freedom it claims to be protecting by under-consuming defense spending, we'd better be careful - because the way we are doing business now has just as big a problem- we are spending ourselves into debt slavery.
How can we find balance? If we place a mandatory tax on people for a public good, we put in place several factors which will insure we over-consume that good, in particular once a specialized industry has grown up around it. If we make taxes voluntary for a public good, we virtually guarantee that it will be irrationally under-consumed, risking our freedom to those less scrupulous about how they fund their military.
I believe the answer presented in Localism (e-book on Barnes and Noble (e-book on Amazon Kindle represents the best possible answer in a very imperfect world.
Neither the Voluntary answer on defense nor the Mandatory answer, in my view, adequately consider the unintended economic consequences of their policy. We need an integrated, and considered approach which balances the extremes of these two methods in a way that will produce optimal allocation of resources and maximization of liberty. Localism does that.
Yes, in Localism taxes are mandatory for public use goods (even here there are some possible ways around it in some places), but due to the manner in which the philosophy decentralizes not only the military, but money, debt, and corporations, the perverse incentives to over-consume defense spending are attenuated and balanced with the free rider problem which would under-consume such spending.
If sustaining liberty were easy, we'd have more of it. I urge readers to deeply consider how liberty is maximized.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Pharisees of our Post-Modern Age

When I was a young man I heard it said, and repeated it myself, that when Christ walked the earth His enemies were not sinners and the unchurched, but religious people.   By now I have realized the error of this view.   The common thread of those who opposed Christ was not their religiosity, but their self-righteousness.   Christ's enemies were those who, for various reasons, felt that they had no need of God.  Their response to His message that they did was anger, outrage, intrigue and eventually, violence.

The Pharisees for example, had their own man-created code. In Mark Chapter 7 the Pharisees question Jesus as to why His disciples don't follow the traditions of the elders as regards to outward cleanliness.   Jesus answers them by describing the Pharisees relationship with God thusly:
7 'BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.' 8 "Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men." 9 He was also saying to them, "You nicely set aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.'
They had their own rules, their own system, and their own program, which they were trying to shoe-horn God into.    But God was not interested in being an icon for their program, He had His own, and this fact outraged them.     This Pharisaical spirit is not limited to any part of the political spectrum.  It can be found anywhere people are so self-righteous that they are just sure it is OK to put their own agenda ahead of God's as revealed in scripture, sometimes even while trying to use Him as a figurehead.

The left for example, is just so sure that "social-justice" is the gospel that they don't even want to talk about the actual gospel in the scriptures.    Never mind that scripture never advocates the use of government force to re-distribute wealth.  Charity is always presented as an individual and voluntary admonition, never something for which God prescribes civil penalties.   This is so even in the Old Testament, where there were stringent civil penalties for all sorts of things most of us would not favor punishing people for now.  Yet proponents of socialism re-branded as "social justice" are just so sure they are right that they brush aside the biblical context for charity and use the name of God to advocate for more government force.

The same is true of environmental questions.   The left is so adamant about protecting the physical earth from perceived threats that they set aside the actual commandments of God in favor of a new set of commandments that they consider "earth friendly".   They cast aside the eternal in favor of the temporal.   It is more important in this new doctrine to love "mother earth" than it is to love one's own actual mother!

These and other trendy cause celebres have been taken up by leftist churches, but notice that one does not even have to be "religious" in the conventional sense to make these causes the basis for one's self-righteousness.   Even atheists use these and other issues as the basis for claims to be morally superior to those who hold other views.   Again, Christ's enemies were not necessarily religious people, the common thread is that they were people who felt that they had no need for God, other than perhaps as a mascot to sell their own program. In their own eyes they had nothing to repent of and thus no need for cleansing. In this case of the New Pharisees it was because they had their own code which effectively replaced God.

This code might not even pose as a spiritual code.  Secularists also set up their own standards for "righteousness" which are separate and apart from God's. The Romans for example were not Pharisees, but they shared with the Pharisees the idea that God was not the highest entity in creation.  In their case, they worshiped the state. Religion was of value only when it served the state.  What glorified the state was good, and what weakened it was bad.    If the Pharisees were an early form of the post-modern trendy churches of today then the Romans were a preview of today's secular pragmatists.  

While they may not have had the visceral revulsion toward Christ that the Pharisees had, the Romans were not going to let Him get in the way of State Business.   Justice, even justice to God, was secondary to the political needs of the state.    If an innocent Man had to be thrown to the wolves to preserve the Status Quo, then they would toss Him to the wolves.   We find their spiritual descendants today in the D.C. beltway, and in the associated business interests who want to keep our present financial system going, no matter how crooked and unsustainable it might be.   Today's New Romans, like the Romans of old, will cut a deal with the post-modern Pharisees in order to advance their mutual interests.

And make no mistake, their interests do coincide.   Since the New Pharisees have given up on repentance and renewal of the inner man through faith in God, they are left only with a focus on external behavior and material circumstances.   This dovetails nicely with the interests of the New Romans who are desirous of the further expansion of state power.    Thus the New Pharisees constantly call for more government intervention to compel the desired external behaviors and bring about their preferred material circumstances, much to the delight of the New Romans.   Big business funds them both, because they find it is more profitable to lobby government to mandate that people purchase your products rather than use traditional marketing which appeals to people to buy what you are selling of their own free will.

The last category of Christ's true enemies are the railers and mockers.  These are those who have no agenda at all beyond their own appetites.   They don't worship the state, or some code of their own making, but only their own immediate needs and desires.   The closest they have to a god is themselves and their own bellies.

The second thief on the cross, the one who joined in railing against Christ once he realized that Christ was not going to save Himself and them as well, is an example of this type.  These people are in our culture, messing up their own lives and the lives of others.   They don't control anything though, not even themselves.  They are used by the other two factions for "rent a mob" functions.   They are reliable votes for socialism because they are very quick to vote to have the government take stuff from other people, including the unborn via deficit spending, in hopes that they might get in on some of the loot.

These three groups were the enemies of Christ when He walked the earth, and their spiritual descendants oppose Him still.   These are the New Pharisees, the New Romans, and those whose god is their own belly (GITOBs).   The call for forgiveness through repentance and faith is lost on them, for they are offended at the idea that there might even be anything which they need to repent of.  While they don't see any need for themselves to repent, they do have some things in mind for you to do.

What "duties" will those who reject the duty of God attempt to place on you their fellow man? If the New Pharisees, they will want you to "save the planet" or support political candidates who advance their idea of compulsory redistributive programs in the name of "social justice."  And the New Romans will be all too glad to "serve" as the administrators of those programs, deciding who should get what. And the GITOBs?  They will expect you, or someone, to provide them with "Free Stuff."    They will continue to demand bread an circuses from the state, thus serving as a client base for both groups.

This is not to say that one must be a Christian to be a localist.  Rather, I am saying these three groups are incompatible with both Christ and Localism.    The New Pharisees have a works-based moral code, and like the old Pharisees, they are so sure that their self-created set of grand ideas is correct that they are willing to encourage the government to impose them by force nation-wide.   The New Romans don't care for any moral code that claims to be higher than the state, but are quite partial to those which are of use in expanding state power, such as environmentalism as an excuse to regulate private property or "social justice" as an excuse to re-distribute it.  And the gitobs?  They are a threat to whatever free society they are in, because they cannot or will not morally govern themselves.   When they become a voting majority, self-rule will vanish along with all rule of law.

These three classifications of persons were Christ's opponents when He walked the earth.  They are also the types of persons one is best protected from in Localism.   Interventionist government programs posing as a new religious morality will be stymied by government decentralization.   So will would-be New Romans.   In Localism, men who dream of building vast empires will be frustrated, while those working to build good communities will be rewarded.  And of course, the down-sizing of political units and other features of the philosophy will mean that the gitobs will very much sooner butt up against what Margaret Thatcher described as the true problem of socialism- that pretty soon, you run out of other people's money.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Liberty Amendments vs. Localist Solutions for Taxation

So I am reading "The Liberty Amendments" by radio talk show host Mark Levin.   My conclusion is that his "solutions" won't work, and that the solutions from Localism, A Philosophy of Government for the same issues are far superior.  This article is a comparison of his answers on the issue of federal taxation.   I have done the same comparison with the "Liberty Amendments" vs. Localist solutions for judicial over-reach and federal spending.  Basically I am going down the list because I think such a comparison will demonstrate just how much better localist answers are to what others are offering.  But my opinion doesn't matter, its yours that counts, so read on...

Levin's solution is to limit by amendment taxes on American citizens (corporate and real) to 15% of their annual income, and a limitation on other taxes with these words "Congress shall not institute a value-added tax or a national sales tax or any other tax in kind or form."

Your loop-hole seeking eye might notice that numerous taxes of almost every kind have already been "instituted" and that the wording does not seem to address the issue of what to do with other taxes that Congress has already instituted.    And of course, there are other labels Congress can put on their extraction of revenue, such as "fee".  

If you think that they won't resort to such stratagems, here is a bit of history for you: Here in my home state of Arkansas, we have a state constitution which says a 3/4ths majority vote of the legislature is required to raise taxes.  The courts ruled that applied only to taxes which were in place at the time the amendment was written, so that any new tax needs only a majority vote! Since sales taxes were not in existence at that time, the legislature has raised our sales taxes so that they are above 9% in most of the state!  The ruling class always finds a way to end-run the restrictions constitutions place on them when they are the only enforcement mechanism against themselves.

My point is one that I made at length in the previous two articles on this subject, that you can't make enough rules to force bad men to be good ones.  Bad men will abuse whatever jurisdiction they oversee, and in order to stop them you must take away all jurisdiction in a given area away from them, not lay enough rules on them so that they are forced to be good.  We must also make it much easier to replace them altogether.

But let's be absurdly generous and pretend Washington will stick by the 15% of annual income cap.   Levin's own statistics show why this would be a disaster.  As of 2009 he says the bottom quintile (20%) of the population had a negative income tax rate of -9.3%.   That is to say almost one dollar of every ten they get comes from welfare via the tax code.   The next quintile of Americans, who are in the 20-40% range of income earners, have a negative 1.3% tax rate.   Only when you get to the 40-60% range of income earners do you find a group which pays more in taxes than it gets from various welfare programs hidden in the tax code, and they only have a tax rate of 1.3%.

The slice of the population in the 60% to 80% range of income earners has an average tax rate of 4.6%.  The top 20% of wage earners pay 13.4% of income in taxes.  Only when you get to the top two or three percent of wage earners do you find tax payments significantly above 15% of income.  For example the average for the top 1% is 21% of income.  

So taxes for the top 1% would get a huge tax reduction under Levin's amendment, which would have to paid for by increasing taxes on the other groups.   The primary beneficiaries of Levin's amendment would be giant corporations.   The biggest losers would be the middle class and upper middle class- the people who tend to buy Levin's book!   He is setting up his audience to be taxed far worse than they are in the name of "fixing" the income tax problem.

His amendment would not fix our tax problem.  Since only the top few percent pay total taxes above 15% of annual income, our  tax system could stay just like it is after his amendment passed.   The one exception being that the taxes paid by the very richest in the nation (including global corporations) would be shifted unto the backs of the only ones left who would be able to pay them - the middle class and upper middle class.

He also claims that this would somehow simplify the tax code and reign in the IRS.  None of this is true.  As I just showed you by the numbers, even if his amendment passed the tax code could stay exactly like it is except for the fact that those at the very top of the heap (mostly giant corporations) would get a significant tax cut which would have to be paid by the rest of us.

The Localist solution goes back to the vision of the Founders.   The central government would be prohibited from laying any direct tax on individual citizens.    The states would be interposed between citizens and the central government.  It would no longer be their business as to how much income each citizen earned and from where.     If the feds could not meet their budgetary needs through modest tariffs and taxes on interstate corporations then they would have to approach the states for the difference.   Each state would then decide how to raise the money needed to pay its share of the federal bill.

This is a solution which would really simplify the tax code, or if not, at least it would not apply to individual persons, but only to large corporations with the resources to sift through it.   Individual citizens would also be shielded from the IRS in such a system, much more so than under Levin's proposals which as I say leave the current system pretty much in place despite the posturing that they would do otherwise.

Of course, Localism is an integrated philosophy.   It would be hard to fund our current fedgov off of reasonable tariffs and moderate taxes on interstate corporations.    Most things that fedgov is trying to handle now must be either pushed down to the states, or eliminated.     For states where people want big government, they can still have it, but they should not expect people from states who want less government to pay for it.   In addition, Localism's policies on limiting foreign corporations must be adhered to in order to, among other benefits, make these tax policies work long-term.

If you haven't read "Localism, A Philosophy of Government" yet but are interested in government policy, you should.  The way it approaches the problem is far more satisfactory than anything else I have heard out there, "The Liberty Amendments" being a case in point.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Liberty Amendments vs. Localist Solutions on Spending

A friend of mine asked me to read "The Liberty Amendments" by radio talk show host Mark Levin.   I was dreading it, but I complied.   I still cringe as I read it, because it seems like such snake-oil, but there is an upside too.   The answers presented in "Localism, A Philosophy of Government" are so much more elegant and make so much more sense that it should serve as encouragement to localists everywhere.  I mean, if that is an example of what the "best" competing ideas there are out there look like, then it just confirms that we are on the right track with localism.

That's just my opinion though.  What matters to you is your opinion, not mine.   So I'd like to compare examples of the two approaches so you can decide for yourself.    I already did that with an article comparing Levin's answers vs. the Localist answers on the subject of how to curb an over-reaching federal judiciary.  

Regarding spending, Levin suggests an amendment limiting federal expenditures to 17.5% of GDP, with an across-the-board cut of 5% every year Congress fails to authorize a budget.  Congress has not authorized a budget in years, they have been operating off of "continuing resolutions".   In addition, it attempts to impose a balanced budget.    It would require a three-fifths majority vote in Congress to suspend any of these restrictions.

Two things come to mind right away.  One is that restricting Congress to spending 17.5% of a number that they get to make up is no restriction at all.   Few believe their unemployment numbers, less believe their inflation numbers, why in the world would one expect them to reliably report a number which limits their spending?   They get to decide how long their own leash is.

But this blunt-instrument approach to the problem does nothing at all to fix a system which rewards politicians who "bring home the bacon".   It does nothing to open up our election system and get better people into office.    A requirement that three-fifths go along with increases in debt or spending will not be that much harder to attain than the present 2.5 fifths plus one vote, because that is the kind of people we have in our system.

Giving shysters, sociopaths, and assorted other low-lifes better instructions does not cause them to behave better. The real problem we have to address is how to get better people in office, not creating laws so perfect that even scoundrels will be made to behave. Scoundrels don't care what's written down on paper. When the problem is that they ignore the limits placed on them in the current constitution, placing more limits on them in that constitution cannot be the solution.  We need to focus on changing the rules so as to make these people easier to replace, not give them better rules to follow.

Localism proposes eliminating the "First past the post" method of electing winners so that people will be free to vote their conscience without fear of "splitting the vote."   Parties would be institutionally separate in each state, and most corporate and out of state campaign contributions would be banned.  These changes would permit the swift rise of other groups if the two traditional parties did not better respond to the desires of the grass roots.    The intent of these rules is to have political parties answer to the people of their own state, not be cogs in a vast machine ultimately funded by global corporations.   

I have seen people struggle all of their adult lives trying to "take back" a national political party.  Now they are old and gray and they are further from their goal than ever before.  The parties at the national level don't serve the people as individuals, but rather are a form of collectivism.   Parties are not mentioned in our constitution, but they have become the means by which men are elected who have eviscerated it.  

Levin does not even address the issue of how to make political parties more answerable to the citizens, rather than taking on a life of their own whereby they even agree on many issues, leaving citizens no effective choice on those issues.   He does not address how to get better people in office (other than a term limits amendment that is indiscriminate in operation and which has proved of limited usefulness in states where it has been implemented). He is only thinking of how to lay down enough rules to turn scoundrels into decent men.

The fundamental problem is that each Congressman has every incentive to rob a Peter who can't stop him in order to pay a Paul who can help them.   They go other places to find money to pay their places.  The primary "other place" they go to these days is the future.   These swindlers use debt to buy your vote with your children's money.   The solution here is not to marginally raise the number of congressmen needed to pull off such a crime, but rather to deny the federal government any power to contract debt whatsoever.     

In a localist society, the national government cannot borrow money.  They would have to go hat-in-hand to the states to ask them to issue debt or provide aid on their behalf.    If they wanted to borrow one trillion dollars, they would have to ask each state to borrow or provide their share of the money and give it to the federal government.  Each state would be able to issue bonds, but the feds would not.  

Are you thinking that this would make it almost impossible for the national government to borrow money unless there was a major war or other legitimate national emergency?  I think that's kind of the idea.  It completely reverses the current dynamic, where the feds borrow money against future taxpayers and give some of it to the states.   As it stands now, state governments are all for such a scam, because they use the money to buy love, and the next generation is not around to defend itself from such looting.   State governments are all too happy with the feds borrowing money in order to give some of it to the states.   They will be far less enthusiastic to borrow on their own account in order to give it to the feds.

The same thing goes with taxed money.  Each congressman wants taxes raised in other states to be spent in their states.  Its the old "if you are paying, I will have the filet mignon" idea.    The only solution is to have everyone pay their own tab as much as possible.  Suddenly, everyone can make do with the chicken salad!   In localism, the feds are only allowed to spend money on a few listed items (like our constitution does now, but its ignored because they have so much power in other areas they can get away with ignoring it).   Even military spending is split up as each state maintains its own ground forces.   Not only will this tamp down on excess military spending, but it will make it a lot harder to sustain unpopular foreign interventions.   The judicial reforms in localism will help ensure that federal employees (the Supreme Court) don't slowly expand the power of their employers over time.  Perhaps most importantly, the power to create money is denied them as well, since history shows that governments consistently abuse this power over time in order to keep spending.

Leven is trying to find a way to keep the Leviathan state, the global empire, while somehow protecting the citizens from the financial consequences of such.   It can't be done.   You have to set things up so that there can be no leviathan, not find chains enough to shackle the monster.

I was also amazed that Levin did not address the Federal Reserve in his amendments.  Oh, he made a brief mention about how they enabled big government, but they get a complete pass in his amendments.   Without addressing the issue of money, the amendments he suggests are all but meaningless.   Bad men find ways to get around good words anyway, but without restrictions on the creation of fiat money, the way is obvious.    The federal government can simply print all the money they want, paid for by the hidden tax of inflation, to grow their operations.   

Localism is a more serious answer because it addresses the issue of government abuse of money.   History has shown that governments consistently abuse their power to create money over time.   I don't want to open a whole new subject, but until you can stop government from debauching the currency you cannot stop government over-spending.  Localism deals with this important matter extensively, Levin just skits it.